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Women's Voices

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I agree that the historic bias against women's voices, particularly when it comes to 'authority' as a characteristic, is a horrible thing. But I suspect the reasons are cultural rather than technological.

 

...or at least, it leaves me to question some of the stuff that's quoted in the article.

 

- The fundamental range of male voices is lower, but that would hurt men more than women when early technology considered 100 Hz to be a decent low-end cutoff. That fundamental range -- a buzz formed by air past the vocal folds -- is where most of speech power lives for both men and women, in terms of SPL and duration. But things aren't very intelligible if that's the only band we're listening to.

 

- The range above 1k5 or so and where intelligibility lives, and about the same for adult men and women. It's determined by the size of the head, which affects the head resonators (mostly little wetware Helmholtzes, formed by the tongue moving against cavities in the mouth) that reinforce harmonics of the fundamental buzz. These harmonics are why you can sing different vowels on the same pitch, in case you've ever wondered. That >1k5 band is also where articulators form the critical differences between different consonant pairs*. 

 

Prove it to yourself:  you can varispeed a male voice up to make a kid (or small cartoon animal), raising all the frequencies by the same factor and implicitly making the 'head smaller'. But you can't pitch shift a man into a woman. Unless you use a 'formant corrected' pitch shifter, which uses a crossover to keep those higher frequencies from being raised by the shift on the lower ones.

 

Or see it for yourself: I've put together a web page with spectrograms and audio samples comparing male and female announcer voices and a few different musical styles, both wide band and separated into smaller bands. You can see and hear what's happening at different frequencies, and how it all relates to power and intelligibility. You may be surprised at how similar male and female voices are, when they're delivering in the same style.

 

And some related music-history trivia, from back when I was getting my degree: in classic operas, heroes and military leaders were tenor rather than basso. That's because traditionally, higher voices were know for carrying better on a battlefield. 

 

--

* "Consonant pairs"? Most consonants come in voice and unvoiced pairs, formed by the same mouth movement in an airflow but with or without the vocal fold buzz. /p/ and /b/ are that kind of pair. So are /s/ and /z/, or /k/ and /g/. (That degree I studied for was in speech science. It's given me a nifty a career as an editor and processing designer.)

 

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  Hey thanks for that link to your awesome page!  A great read.  I’m trying my pinkie in mastering music and my mixes always come out muddy.  Those perspectives are very useful!

 

Dan

 

On 9/5/2019 at 10:35 AM, Jay Rose said:

I agree that the historic bias against women's voices, particularly when it comes to 'authority' as a characteristic, is a horrible thing. But I suspect the reasons are cultural rather than technological.

 

...or at least, it leaves me to question some of the stuff that's quoted in the article.

 

- The fundamental range of male voices is lower, but that would hurt men more than women when early technology considered 100 Hz to be a decent low-end cutoff. That fundamental range -- a buzz formed by air past the vocal folds -- is where most of speech power lives for both men and women, in terms of SPL and duration. But things aren't very intelligible if that's the only band we're listening to.

 

- The range above 1k5 or so and where intelligibility lives, and about the same for adult men and women. It's determined by the size of the head, which affects the head resonators (mostly little wetware Helmholtzes, formed by the tongue moving against cavities in the mouth) that reinforce harmonics of the fundamental buzz. These harmonics are why you can sing different vowels on the same pitch, in case you've ever wondered. That >1k5 band is also where articulators form the critical differences between different consonant pairs*. 

 

Prove it to yourself:  you can varispeed a male voice up to make a kid (or small cartoon animal), raising all the frequencies by the same factor and implicitly making the 'head smaller'. But you can't pitch shift a man into a woman. Unless you use a 'formant corrected' pitch shifter, which uses a crossover to keep those higher frequencies from being raised by the shift on the lower ones.

 

Or see it for yourself: I've put together a web page with spectrograms and audio samples comparing male and female announcer voices and a few different musical styles, both wide band and separated into smaller bands. You can see and hear what's happening at different frequencies, and how it all relates to power and intelligibility. You may be surprised at how similar male and female voices are, when they're delivering in the same style.

 

And some related music-history trivia, from back when I was getting my degree: in classic operas, heroes and military leaders were tenor rather than basso. That's because traditionally, higher voices were know for carrying better on a battlefield. 

 

--

* "Consonant pairs"? Most consonants come in voice and unvoiced pairs, formed by the same mouth movement in an airflow but with or without the vocal fold buzz. /p/ and /b/ are that kind of pair. So are /s/ and /z/, or /k/ and /g/. (That degree I studied for was in speech science. It's given me a nifty a career as an editor and processing designer.)

 

 

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Interesting stuff!!

 

Now we are faced with the glottle rattle or rasp like quality that particularly younger women adopt.

 

It is found naturally in older men (particularly American) but it is now an adopted quality

which is quite an unnatural and false to to point of amusing

 

It's quite odd to listen to a female radio interviewer with a normal voice talking to a young raspy woman!

 

mike

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